The day after Christmas is known in the United Kingdom as Boxing Day, and it’s one of the most special days on the soccer calendar. There’s always a big slate of games across England and Scotland.
Here’s a look at the top games to watch on TV and online this weekend.
Saturday, 7:30 a.m. (NBCSN)
The first game of the weekend might be the best one of all. Manchester United roared into third place in the English Premier League with last Sunday’s 6-2 rout of Leeds, and now visits a Leicester squad that’s in second place by one point. The striker duel between United’s Marcus Rashford (12 goals in 21 games) and Leicester’s Jamie Vardy (13 in 15) should be great theater.
Saturday, 7:30 a.m. (ESPN+)
Up in Scotland, Glasgow-based Rangers has a stunning 16-point lead over second-place crosstown rival Celtic. Though Celtic has played three fewer games, even if it wins them all, the gap would still be seven points — three games’ worth of results. A Rangers win over third-place Hibernian, based in Edinburgh, would be a big step toward ending Celtic’s run of nine straight Scottish Premier League titles.
Saturday, 10 a.m. (Peacock)
Saturday, 10 a.m. (ESPN+)
Let’s say this as bluntly as possible: Celtic fans need to get over the idea that they’re going to get Mark McKenzie for a cheap price. And “cheap price” doesn’t just mean the absurdly low $1.25 million fee some Celtic fans thought was possible earlier this year. It means the full price that teams from England or Germany will offer to attract McKenzie to a higher level of soccer.
It’s fine that McKenzie told Sky Sports this month he knows Celtic helped develop Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk into the world’s best centerback. But he can do better, and so can the Union — and that will be especially true if Celtic slips up any more this season. Hibernian is just one point back of Celtic right now, and fourth-place Aberdeen is one point back of Hibs. That raises the pressure on Celtic to win all of its games in hand.
Saturday, 12:30 p.m. (NBC10, Universo)
The spotlight should be on Chelsea here, and not just because of Hershey native Christian Pulisic. But it won’t be, and Blues fans know why. On the other side of London, Arsenal has been such a trainwreck that it’s one of the biggest stories of the season. The Gunners have just four wins in 14 Premier League games this season and sit in 15th place, just three spots above the relegation zone.
Arsenal needs better defenders, and has for years. But the front office has failed to deliver it, partly because owner Stan Kroenke won’t let the team have the money it needs. The team needs a playmaker, but the one that it has, Mesut Ozil, has been exiled for reasons no one is willing to say. Ozil has been reduced to hosting Q&A sessions with fans on Twitter, and those fans have been reduced to stewing over their club’s ineptitude.
Saturday, 3 p.m. (NBCSN, Universo)
Man City is on a nine-game unbeaten streak in all competitions dating back to Nov. 21. But that’s a little bit deceptive, because of the five Premier League games in that run, just one has been a win over a good team: at Southampton last Saturday. Will that be the spark that Kevin de Bruyne and company need to make a move up the standings? This game will tell us.
Sunday, 2:15 p.m. (NBCSN, Universo)
Monday, 3 p.m. (Peacock)
Another English soccer holiday tradition is playing lots of games in a short time. Coaches and players rightly hate it, but TV money calls the shots just like it does in American sports. So both of these teams will be back on the field barely 48 hours after their last contest. Could it give Zack Steffen a shot at his first Premier League start?